Sunday, December 30, 2012

Capsule Film Reviews: Charlie's Angels

Ah boys and their action-adventure toys. The boys are the man so cool he only needs one name, the director McG (Joseph McGinty Nichol), and the writers Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, and John August. Their toys are fast cars, helicopters, missiles, guns, swords, cgi, kung fu fighting, wire work, stunt work, and, their biggest toy of all, Charlie's Angels, the 2000 film starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz as Charlie's most recent angels, Bill Murray, who alone brings some much needed silliness to the silly proceedings as Bosley, Sam Rockwell and Kelly Lynch as the bad guys and gals, and John Forsythe reprising his television role of the Charlie in Charlie's Angels.

Charlie's Angels (Columbia), yet another adaptation of a television show (Charlie's Angels, ABC, 1976-1981), is a typical paint by numbers contemporary Hollywood film. With Charlie's Angels you get the nostalgia of yet another remake of an past television series. You get action adventure with a little bit of humour thrown in. You get a driving and throbbing rock and pop film score with a bit of pop nostalgia thrown into the mix (soundtrack on Sony, of course). You get a lot of t and a. All of this is then put into a pot and blended in order to get Charlie's chosen demographic--those mostly males between the ages of 14 to 26 or so with money--into the theatres so that producers, one of whom is Barrymore herself, and the studio heads can make lots of money.

Story wise Charlie's Angels tells the tale of how our three angels, the bad ass hotheaded redhead one, Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore), the nerdy Asian brunette one, Alex Munday (Lucy Liu), a shout out to Robert Wagner's characters name in another ABC show It Takes A Thief (1968-1970), Alexander Munday, and the peppy blonde innocent girly one with self esteem problems, Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), save Charlie from a man (Rockwell) seeking revenge for his fathers death. Along the way our Angels, individually or collectively, dance on Soul Train, shake their booty, cook for their boyfriends, sing songs, date, drive fast cars, drive fast boats, climb ropes up to castles in Carmel and up to helicopters where an evil villain is about to kill Charlie, and kick ass. We are, I suppose, meant to believe that Angels can be feminist, sexy, and bad ass investigators all at the same time. Needless to say the feminism in the film version of Charlie's Angels is as faux as the feminism in the television show.

McG directs Charlie's Angels as though it were an MTV music promo, which is where he got his start. He manipulates colours and keeps the pace moving very rapidly and, this is an action-adventure film after all, throws in a lot of car crashes and blows up a lot of stuff. At other times McG gives us what looks like a Playboy shoot. He slows the action down so we can see the Angel's in model like poses with hair blowing sexily and sensuously in the wind. Not trusting that his audience can read his visual clues and cues McG underlines some things in the film twice for good measure adding subtitles telling them, at one point, that characters he introduced them to earlier are the Director 1 and Director 2 he introduced the audience to earlier and he backtracks so we can see a scene in which Angel Dylan escaped the bullet of bad man Knox (Rockwell) again but this time in slow motion rather than normal film motion. And its all done in such unrealistic ways that it makes you wonder what ever became of realism in Hollywood cinema and whether audiences now think of this stuff as "realistic" because they have become so acclimated to it.

The writing is as cliched as the direction. It is full of the rather obvious sexual innuendos that seem to pass for subtle wit in Hollywood these days as when Natalie tells her boyfriend that she is like a virgin and that it is her first or when she tells the UPS man that he can stick her packages in her slot. Witty, very witty Rowe, Solomon, and August. Not. I am sure the younger demographic the film is aimed at loves the sexual "innuendos" here as much as they do in their teeny pop and roll.

I am giving Charlie's Angels two and a half stars. Mediocre, cliche ridden, unmemorable, and fully disposable, yet, at the end of the day, somewhat watchable. Charlie's Angels thou art the brave new world of Hollywood.

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